USA Today Columnist Says NFL Should Use Juneteenth to ‘Examine Its Race-Norming Past’

AP Photo_Gene J. Puskar (2)
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

A USA Today columnist blasted the NFL Friday for making a big show of observing Juneteenth but not using the holiday to reflect on its “most racist practice” of race-norming.

In his Friday op ed, columnist Mike Freeman gave faint praise to the National Football League for being an early adopter of the Juneteenth celebration. Juneteenth was first celebrated in Texas on June 19, 1865, when Union troops arrived in that state, ensuring the freedom of all enslaved people under the terms of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Agreeing that the NFL’s move to recognize Juneteenth was “significant,” Freeman still faulted the league for not using the holiday to reflect on its own “racist practices.”

“What most of the public didn’t know, was as the NFL patted itself on the back for recognizing Juneteenth, it was also using one of the most racist practices in its history, and that’s race-norming,” Freeman wrote.

While NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell insisted that the league’s recognition was intended to be “a day to reflect on our past,” Freeman claims that the NFL is doing no such thing.

“There’s no proof that as a league the NFL did what Goodell said in his statement to teams which was ‘reflect on our past.’ Whether he meant the NFL should, or America, it doesn’t seem like either thing occurred,” the writer charged.

Freeman added, “rather than words or gestures, the NFL needs to spend this time taking a hard look at itself.”

The columnist went on to insist that the NFL does not seem to respect its black players. Freeman continued his criticism with a list of ills perpetrated by the pro football league:

Why was Colin Kaepernick effectively banned? Why is the league still so awful at hiring Black coaches? Those are just some of the questions.

The NFL publicly embracing Juneteenth while acting in the least Juneteenth-y way possible is on brand for the league. The league talks about its love of the military but it charged the Department of Defense for military tributes at its games. It pushed pink merchandise to fight breast cancer, but a shockingly small amount of the proceeds actually went toward research.

The league utilizing race-norming as a money-saving weapon against its own players still requires answers from Goodell and the owners. It will take decades to fully unravel and repair the damage. Before the NFL recently eliminated the practice, race-norming assumed Black players started out with a lower level of cognitive function. This, in turn, made it more difficult for Black players to qualify for payouts after the NFL and players reached a nearly billion-dollar settlement following a class-action lawsuit players filed against the league.

“The NFL’s actions in using race-norming shows the danger of ignoring history and shows why days like Juneteenth are so valuable and likely will be for centuries,” Freeman continued.

The writer concluded his op-ed arguing that the NFL will continue to pay lip service to racial equality but won’t do anything to achieve it.

“Instead, the NFL will talk about how important Juneteenth is to the league, failing to see the race-norming irony,” Freeman concluded.

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